Experience Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island rich in history, culture, friendly people… and we can’t forget delicious cuisine! If you are unsure what to expect or contemplating whether you should visit the island (since the destruction from hurricane Maria) than read on! My answer is simply – YES! Here are my reasons why and what you can expect.

Support

Many parts of Puerto Rico were without electricity, water, food and other supplies when hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island September 20, 2017. With slow federal response the island is doing its best to go back to normal. Our tourism helps the island tremendously. When speaking with many of the locals they want all of us to know that Puerto Rico is still a beautiful island open to tourists. Many of the popular tourists locations such as Old San Juan are in great shape and ready for your arrival.

No Passport needed!

For some this is not a big deal as you may already have one. However, when traveling with a large family buying passports in addition to vacation expense can cost you a hefty penny. Once everyone has their passports the world is your oyster. But, if are anxious to travel somewhere exotic and tropical in the meantime visit our beautiful islands that are part of the United States; Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hawaii.

 

Plane tickets & Car rental

Our tickets were a reasonably priced roundtrip for about $300 in January. Not bad at all to visit paradise. There are some tips you can follow to find the best days and times when to purchase tickets by reading my previous article Travel tips for the SMART consumer Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is one of largest airports in Puerto and most closest to the popular city Old San Juan. The airport was clean and well organized.

car

Other important takeaways:

If you arrive after 10:30 pm the airport was pretty empty. You can expect most of the restaurants and bars within the airport to be closed as well. No worries though! There will be plenty of delicious places open when you leave the airport to start you on your adventure!

The car rental kiosk at the airport closes at midnight. There is also only one kiosk open for renting with all companies that time of night. Renting a car is the same process and same companies that you find here in the United States (Enterprise, Hertz, Budget).Your current auto insurance policy with full coverage should cover you while in Puerto Rico. The roads and highways looked no different than your typical drive in the United States. There were a few toll roads depending on what part of Puerto Rico you are visiting. In some areas you could definitely see the devastation from the hurricane, but overall the roads were safe to drive on.

Puerto Rico does offer ride sharing if you decide not to rent a car. Unsure about the parking,  we caught an Uber a few times when heading into Old San Juan. Our Uber drivers were friendly and very knowledgeable. It was interesting listening to how they and their families survived hurricane Maria and how they were doing today with the recovery. Each driver we had said they were thankful for people visiting the island. Every bit helps including our tourism! (By the way there were a few large paid parking garages in Old San Juan)

Where to stay?

Most hotels will cost you $220 a night and up depending on what you are looking for. We decided to book our stay with Book VIP and stayed at the nearby beautiful Wyndham Hotel. However, if I could go back in time I would have decided to stay in an Airbnb in Old San Juan. For the same price you can stay in the city near all the action of night life, restaurants and have a local experience in beautiful architecture.

dorado

If you would like to splurge and experience a true island resort type of stay I highly recommend The Ritz Carlton in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Located on a beautiful golf course and beach, this resort is very top notch and exclusive. You can also purchase real estate or stay in a beautiful villa.

Cuisine

monfongo

Coming from someone who does not eat pork or beef, my Puerto Rican food was still delicious! The islands most popular dish Mofongo (typically made with fried green plantains) is mashed together in a pilon which consists of a wooden mortar and pestle, with broth, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon. It can also be made vegetarian with carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I also had a delicious chicken dish paired with homemade hot and fruity hot sauce. Just devine!

Hanging Out

We woke up early to Uber into Old San Juan. We were told on the weekends go into  town early enough before the cruise ships come in. Our first stop was finding a coffee shop to enjoy the islands espresso with a hint of Grand Manier. Eager to get out of a warm rainforest down pour, we stumbled upon Café Berlin. Café Berline was  perfect! Great espresso, beautiful décor, vegetarian dishes, and very friendly staff.

After we left Café Berlin it was still raining so we stepped into one of the local mom and pop shops to purchase a durable umbrella for only $5! We step out onto the cobble stone lined streets to explore Old San Juan. Here were some of our favorite places:

 

haitian

Haitian Gallery

367 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A must see for beautiful, unique art for well over 30 years. Don’t forget to venture upstairs for more.

cigar

The Cigar House of Puerto Rico

257 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Purchase cigars or chillax in the beautiful cigar room. Enjoy full concierge service which includes a backroom tour of the most exquisite cigars. Enjoy a cognac at the table while you blow one back.

umbrella

The Colorful Umbrellas

Fortaleza Street

Beautifully colored umbrellas decorate the sky of this popular street.

 

pigeons

Pigeon Park “The Parque de las Palomas” (Bird Watching area)

Calle de Tetuan, San Juan Puerto Rico 00901

Whoever thought you could find such peace sitting amongst birds?

 

monastary

The Monastery Art Hotel & Suites

250 Calle de Cristo

San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

One of the most beautiful places to stay in the Old San Juan District. Close to nightlife,

monuments and museums.

lady pizza

Bari Handcrafted Pizza

Calle del Cristo #154

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Delicious oven baked pizza (try the artichoke heart!). Beautiful open garden setting, delicious espresso, music (Bob Marley was playing!), friendly staff.

 

names

Los Yeyos la Casa del Mofongo

353 Calle San Francisco

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Great tiny bar that serves great food and best Mofongo on the Island. Be sure to write your name on the wall in marker before you go!

 

fort2

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

501 Calle Norzagarary

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A Historical landmark citadel from the 16th century named in honor of King Phillip II from Spain. Bring your walking shoes to explore this beautiful site.

San Juan has so many beautiful things to see and do. This is the type of place where you don’t necessarily have to plan. On a typical weeknight you could hear and see live music playing in the streets. Enjoy!

mom

If you would like help planning your next relaxing vacation try travel designer www.travelroute365.com

Want to plan it all yourself? We like Book VIP

 

 

 

 

The Himalayan Salt Cave experience in Mentor, Ohio

There is a holistic hidden jewel located in Mentor, Ohio. The Mentor Salt Cave is a relaxing and holistic experience for the young and old.  You can book appointments for sessions in the twelve thousand pound Himalayan salt cave, or detoxifying foot soak baths. Upon entering there is a beautifully arranged retail store containing everything Himalayan. From edible assortments, to inhaler’s, lamps and soaps to hosting your own private party.

SALT PRODUCTS

Himalayan salt is known for the natural healing powers of its 84 trace minerals needed to heal our bodies. Here are just a few of the type of ailments Himalayan salt has healed:

SALT INSIDE2

Upon entering the dimly 71 degree Himalayan cave you must place all electronics in a locker, remove your shoes and put on protective slippers. You are given a cozy blanket as you lie underneath stars in the zero gravity chair. Ear plugs are placed in your ear as you listen to soothing music and inhale the salt into your sinuses to work its magic within your body.

You can complete your visit with an iconic detoxifying foot salt bath soak which magnetizes and draws toxins out of your body through your feet. Your visit would not be complete without purchasing a healing soap or salt lamp to take home.

Note: If you can not make it out to the Mentor Salt Cave, You can also replace your table salt with pink Himalayan salt to help heal the same benefits listed above. I purchase mine from Trader Joe’s Grocery Store.

For more information or to book your appointment visit their site here.

Young Entrepreneurs

Young entrepreneurs is a non- profit organization that children and teens can participate in to help pursue their entrepreneurial, leadership, and business ideas.

Your child does not have to have a business plan or even know what their entire plans for the future are. The idea is to turn their vision and craft into an opportunity to make connections with people and make money as a result of something they thought of.

Here is how our experience went with Young Entrepreneurs:

We were visiting a farmers market one Saturday and came across a booth filled with two separate groups of children and teens. One group were two male teens who baked and sold delicious cookies. Another were two girls selling small homemade pillows and hair bandanas.

My girls were immediately drawn to them and seeing them sparked their naturally born curiosity and talents. They immediately asked when they could do the same. We got the name of the website called Young Entrepreneurs, filled out the form and signed up. The process was easy! Our girls immediately spent the next few weeks preparing their product and creating business cards.

When the big day came my girls woke early to make sure they were at their booth at the farmers market at 830am. They displayed their product and stood proudly for 3 hours greeting the locals, taking payments and handing out business cards. They have already signed up for another booth and feel so proud creating something and making their own money. My husband and I were so proud of our girls. The values they are learning from this experience and the children they might have inspired today  is priceless!

Spread the love to your young entrepreneur in your family! If you are interested in signing up or learning more please visit the Young Entrepreneurs website here.

Teach your children to Give, Save and Spend

There are 3 simple, yet important foundations that we can teach our children at a very young age about money. Regardless of how money comes and goes in our lives it can always be allocated into 3 main categories: give, save, and spend. When you think about those three categories you realize that you are either fully aware money is transacting like this at all times, or you soon realize how frivolous you are being with your own thoughts on money.

It is important to acknowledge your money and give it value. And the best time to start teaching this philosophy is as soon as possible!

Let me give you an honest example. In my latter parenting years, I have become one of those parents who believe in compensating my children for chores and other household projects. I didn’t always believe in this teaching, however. When I was a single mom raising my youngest child who is now 16, I pretty much catered to her every need. I served her decorative breakfast, lunch and dinner plates then collected the mess when she was done. I would yell, “Clean your room!,” only to come in 10 minutes later and find her watching TV. I would then retreat to cleaning the entire room. I picked out her clothes, helped her get dressed (yeah I know, insane!). How I came to do this without blinking was easy. I loved my daughter, I didn’t mind doing it, and I simply thought by doing these things that I was showing her how much I was a caring mother.

Little did I realize –  what I was doing was setting her up for laziness, entitlement and lack of responsibility. But how would she ever learn to not only take care of herself, but also humble herself to helping others? As a parent, it can be hard to go from taking care of your child’s every need to wanting them take on more responsibilities. The later you start your child down the road of having less responsibility around the house, the harder it becomes for both of you to correct the behavior later. Thinking back, I don’t beat myself up about it. When you start knowing better, you start doing better. I promised myself with my next two children that I was not heading down that long road again.

ANAKA DISHES

As soon as my youngest turned 5 and my middle child turned 7, my husband and I were introduced to an audio book teaching that inspired us so much that we wanted all of our children to learn this simple lesson of being responsible with their money. It’s called Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey. This audiobook has not only changed my life and how my children perceive chores and saving money, but their maturity has grown by leaps and bounds. Who thought that yelling “go clean your room” would be met with fast runs upstairs to see who can get there first?!

LILLIE MONEY

Before I get into greater detail on what we do in our household, here is some background on Dave Ramsey’s course. Dave Ramsey is a dad best known for starting a course for adults called Financial Peace University. It is an awesome course for any income level or educational background. Just be ready to live like no one else, so you can live like no one else when stepping into it! Along with allocating your income and giving every dollar a name, Dave was soon inspired to create the same idea for his growing children. Here is his take on “commissioning your children:’ We never gave our children an allowance because I don’t like the word. We gave our kids a commission. Commission is, “Work, get paid. Don’t work, don’t get paid.” It’s kind of like the real world. Allowance sounds like welfare to me. I just don’t like the word. Words are powerful. You have to be careful with them. We called ours commissions, and if you didn’t do your work, by the way, you didn’t get paid. That’s how this works.

After listening to the audiobook Smart Money Smart Kids, my husband and I anxiously got started. To make it fun we had the girls decorate envelopes and later as the envelopes got full, switched the money into jars and so forth. As we had the girls label each envelope and jar with give, save, and spend they understood that for every dollar earned, it would go into one of the allocated areas. They further understood what they would be compensated for each chore and that some jobs would be worth a dollar (i.e. washing dishes), some would be worth a quarter (i.e. feeding the pets), and that some chores did not warrant any money (i.e. putting your dish in the sink).

You will have fun creatively coming up with your own pay scale and chore list as a family. Don’t forget – it is necessary to clearly lay out all house rules because children will try to get over on you. Here are some of our amazing results so far:

SAVE

We are into about 3 months dedication with implementing Smart Money Smart Kids.  Our daughters age 5 and 7 have saved enough money to purchase their first big splurge – an Android tablet. And yes, they diligently have earned every hardworking penny.

 

GIVE

My daughter’s recently gave a small donation to a special cause of their choosing.

 

SPEND

Spending has taken on such fun experience for the girls. We go to either the dollar tree or five below and mommy and daddy no longer reach in their pocket. Toys and little trinkets no longer are just carelessly thrown or lost right away. The kids seem to be proud and take more pride in their purchases.

 

WORK

This process can continue to repeat itself throughout childhood, teenage years and into adulthood. As the children get older, it’s a great opportunity to introduce investments and making their own money to give, save and spend with.

In case you are wondering about my 16 year old, well of course it’s not easy to get her to comply  as the young ones have. However, we are taking her passion for art and making it into her own business. From that she is able to give, spend, and save. And, yes she does try to keep up with her room and other household chores, lol. Good luck all!!

Dave Ramsey has a plethora of  courses or audiobooks to choose from. You can find out more information here

ANAKA MONEY

 

 

Free Family Event: A Harp Quartet, Coloring and Cocktails

I live for finding free family events for my family. And when the event includes an opportunity for a musical exposure – the better!

LES DELICIES

The group Les Delices, directed by Debra Nagy performed at the Cleveland Bop Stop to an audience of children aged 5 to 12. Monthly, the Cleveland Bop Stop offers several musical events for children during the day. By night they are a full fledged jazz club where every cocktail purchased goes towards funding their musical education department.

ANGELS
Angelic harp coloring sheets

 

The setting for the event included several small round tables outlining the stage. On each table were unique coloring sheets that included a few pictures of the Harp’s past history: The Pharaoh, and angelic angles. While we colored Les Delices (a quartet of piccolo, violin, cello and harp) played several delightful songs including a silly story of the mouse and the frog led by vocalist Debra Nagy.

PERFORM
Les Delices performing at the Bop Stop

 

Should you find yourselves thirsty or hungry during these events, the Bop Stop offers a small appetizer menu such as ranch popcorn and flatbread pizza to name a few. Parents can sip on wine, beer, and other cocktail favorites.

To our surprise, we were pleased to find out Les Delices gives free family musical events and paid performances throughout the year! If you would like to go to one of Les Delices events, or visit The Bop Stop for a family/adult jazz event, check out the links below for more information:

View Les Delices live performance here:

Les Delices: http://www.lesdelices.org/outreach/

The Bop Stop Calendar: https://www.themusicsettlement.org/calendar

outside
Outside the Bop Stop

Help your Garden this Spring by making a simple Mason Bee House.

Did you know there are well over 500 different species of bees in the State of Ohio alone? The mason bee is often less talked about in comparison to our friend the honey bee, but just as important nonetheless. Although, mason bees help pollinate our fruit and vegetable reproduction, they do not produce honey like the honey bee. Mason bees are always looking for shelter each spring to lay their eggs. Why not take a moment this spring to give these little friends some help? One simple way is to provide the Mason bee some shelter for its eggs. In exchange they can aid with any growing backyard garden.

What is a Mason bee and how do they differ from the Honey bee?

Although honey bees are the most common bee type, have you ever really gotten to know the mason bee? Mason bees are docile male and female workers that carry pollen on their abdomen whereas, the honey bee carry on their hind legs. For this reason mason bees are able to pollinate 100x more! Mason bees are docile because they don’t have a hive or a queen bee to defend like the honey bee. The females do carry a stinger like the female honey bee, however the sting is similar to that of a mosquito bite.

Another way they are different from the honey bee is their natural blue hue color. At times they have often been mistaken for a pesty house fly.  Their main purpose from March (they peak in the Spring when the temperature is a steady 50 degrees or higher) to June is to help pollinate flowers, especially fruit trees and fruit bushes. Their average life span is about 8 to 10 weeks. Whereas, the honey bee works year around.

Finally, Mason bees only fly a few hundred feet away from their nests. The honey bee will travel up to 3 foot ball fields away in search of pollen.

How can I make a Mason Bee House?

Mason bee houses are simple to make at home or at local workshop in your area. They are even simple enough to make alone, or with your kids, and are a great way to help out your garden and give shelter to some of the most awesome pollinators on the planet.

Starting in the month of March, female mason bees look for shelter to lay their eggs. You will definitely want to have the house prepared ahead of time. If made with cedar wood (as I will explain below), the houses can easily be stored away at the end of June until the following Spring.
To start measure and cut four pieces of cedar wood as follows:
dimensions
wood
Drill 2 to 3 holes either side with 1inch screws:
drill3 house
You should have the shape of a house
house
Mount the house to the last slab of wood by drilling holes in the back
LILLIE DRILL
Roll approximately 40 to 50 tubes of newspaper each 6 inches long to be laid within the house.
ROLL
This is where the females will lay the eggs. A cool fact: female eggs will be laid towards the back of the house and male eggs will be laid towards front. This is to protect the female from predators such as woodpeckers.
packing

Once your house is complete follow these steps to insure your Mason Bees have a proper set up:

  1. Hang your house on a building, garage, post or tree that stands at least 3 to 6 feet tall.
  2.  The house should face east towards the rising sun each morning.

3. Make sure that mud is easily accessible for the bees to grab. You can easily dig a small mud patch near the house. Mason bees use the mud to securely pack and seal their eggs in the tubes.

4. Having your fruits and vegetables nearby the house helps since mason bees do not travel far.

Sources: Information gathered from The Mason Bee Workshop at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center in Ohio

Local Guide: Top 5 Events to Visit in Cleveland with Kids this Holiday Season

Kid tested…mother approved!

1. Crocker Park Christmas Tree Lighting- Westlake, Ohio

CRO

Enjoy decked out holiday shopping in this open air shopping center. Each year Crocker Park comes alive with their annual Christmas tree and lighting countdown. Eat at popular restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and the Yard House. You can walk the plaza while the kids drink warm hot cocoa cooled with vanilla ice-cream from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Invite family and friends to experience their new outdoor ice-skating rink that opens on November 18th. Top the tiresome evening off with a movie and a stay at the beautiful Hyatt Regency within the center.

 

2. Snow Tubing – Boston Mills Brandywine, Boston Heights, Ohio

BOSTON MILLS

This wintertime activity is safe and enjoyable for family members 3 and up! For only $25 per person, grab a snow-tube (no worries, you get a nice lift up the hill) and slide down the best hills ever! If your family is feeling extra adventurous, enjoy sliding down the hills at night too. Afterwards, enjoy a small snack bar which does carry hot cocoa.

3. Coventry Village Holiday Festival – Cleveland Heights, Ohio

COVENTRY

This eclectic, hippie, earthy street is known for its love of nostalgia. A trip to Coventry Village is great anytime of year, and the Christmas theme just adds to the fun. Among shopping at the cool unique shops such as Big Fun, and City Buddha, Coventry sets out a money machine (fake money can be used at stores on Coventry only)!

The B-Side Liquor Lounge turns into a kids only club for the afternoon. Kids can dance with a DJ and sing to Frozen (among other kid favorites) on the Karaoke machine. Other activities include photos with Santa at Piccadilly Vegan Ice Cream, and a throwback movie. Grab a selfie with Rudolph, The Grinch, and Frosty!

Enjoy great eating at Tommy’s Restaurant who is know for their great handmade milkshakes, handmade french fries, and huge vegetarian selections.

4. Winter Lights Lantern Holiday Circlefest and GLOW – Cleveland Museum of Art & Botanical Gardens

ART MUSEUM

Known as one of the top art museums in the country, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens creates a beautiful “Glow” theme on its lawn during the Christmas holiday. Admire beautifully glowing art pieces on the lawn. Throw on those ice skates and don’t fall eating freshly made kettle corn from the local vendors. Come early before the Museum’s annual artsy night parade to enjoy a craft. Watch chefs prepare you an exquisite dish in the cafe, or snack on fresh baked cookies along with a glass of wine or champagne. Of course, there will be plenty of hot chocolate. Best of all – entry into the art museum is FREE!

5. Light Up Lakewood! Lakewood, Ohio

LAKEWOOD

Usually happening on the first weekend in December, this outdoor walk around festival caters to both the very young and old at heart. This annual event is full of plenty of activities for the kids such as Santa pictures and crafts in the library (come early enough to grab a number to meet him!). Eat at the nationally known, Cleveland born restaurant Melt Bar and Grilled for fantastic grilled cheese and beer. Grab glow sticks and free hot cocoa while you pass people dressed as Star Wars and other characters on the street (was that just a black Santa Claus? YEP!). Don’t forget to stay for the night parade and tree lightning. Did I happen to say that a DJ spins the tunes while you’re taking this all in?